The challenge the best boxer around today, Julio Cesar Chavez, is taking on tomorrow (9 p.m.) at the top of the Grand ZTC Slam of Boxing show on pay-per-view is not the fists of Greg Haugen -- after all, Chavez is a 25-1 favorite -- but the claim he can fill the arena.
Pshaw, you say, why wouldn't four champions putting their titles the line on one show be able to create an SRO situation? Mainly because the fight site is Mexico City and the "arena" is Estadio Azteca, seating capacity 120,000.
"He thinks he can fill it," says fight analyst Ferdie Pacheco, "and knowing how he is revered by the Mexican people, I don't doubt it. All week long, it's been like the atmosphere before a Muhammad Ali fight down here."
Even if the main event is one-sided, rest assured Haugen will give it everything he's got, which isn't overpowering when it comes to ring skills, but he is as tough and resourceful (dirty?) as they come. Greg's been doing his part during the buildup, pointing out, "most of Chavez's [80 straight] wins are against Mexico City cab drivers."
The other matches have Terry Norris testing Maurice Blocker, Michael Nunn -- back in the ring after successfully defending his title against Victor Cordoba a couple of weeks ago -- taking on Danny Morgan, and the sleeper, Azumah Nelson going against Gabriel Ruelas.
"Usually, on shows like this, one fight stands out above all the rest," says Pacheco. "I think it will be the Nelson fight. He's been a great fighter over the years, a Hall of Famer, I think, but he always seems to be on the verge of extinction before finding a way to come back and win. In this case, I think Ruelas can out-technique him."
* At first glance, the squads representing the East and West in the 42nd NBA All-Star Game Sunday (NBC, 6 p.m.) appear a bit too slam-dunk oriented to put on a memorable show. But this perhaps denies the ability of players to step forward and provide a Magic Johnson and Larry Bird-style wing-ding. Both teams have at least five "fun-time" stylists, so the game should prove a worthy coming-out party for Shaq O'Neal.
Before NBC goes gunning for a big rating by invading prime time with the second half, TNT is all over All-Star Weekend tomorrow (7 p.m.) with the slam dunk and three-point competitions and the Legends Game.
* The ACC twin bill on Channel 2 tomorrow is a keeper, Georgia Tech taking on Wake Forest at 1:30 p.m., followed by Clemson and Florida State at 4. Sunday, ABC moves in for two more conference games but, on the surface, they don't appear as competitive: North Carolina vs. Virginia (1:30) and Duke vs. N.C. State (3:45).
The CBS doubleheader Sunday has Georgetown and Seton Hall in a ragged Big East scrimmage at 12:30 p.m., followed by a coach-watching spectacular pitting Gene Keady (Purdue) against "The General," Bobby Knight (Indiana). The Eye's hoop offering tomorrow is a women's game at 3 p.m., Stanford going against Connecticut. The network certainly hasn't gone overboard advertising this matchup, has it?
* Hidden gems: ESPN has an hour of track and field from the Sunkist Games in Los Angeles at 5 p.m. Sunday . . . The "Winterfest" show on CBS Sunday (5 p.m.) has a tape of the recent world championship competitions in two- and four-man bobsleds and luge . . . The ESPN Sunday night fight (8 p.m.) has a couple of non-stop bangers, Calvin Grove vs. Troy Dorsey. The over on the fight is six rounds.
* Is it me or is there something missing on Senior PGA Tour telecasts these days? Combined, the seniors and the regular PGA Tour will cover 70 weekends this year and that doesn't include the USGA events such as the U.S. Open, the Senior Open, Ryder Cup, Women's Open, the national amateur and the public links.
Newest competitors aboard with the seniors, who are currently playing the Suncoast Classic (ESPN, 6 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday) are TV analysts Bob Murphy, who arrived at the 50 mark on St. Valentine's Day, and Tom Weiskopf. Both these guys should be able to challenge the likes of Lee Trevino, Dave Stockton, etc.
* Bill Walton, a pleasant surprise as an "insider" on NBC's Showtime, lost a lump of credibility last weekend when he declared: "Michael Jordan did the right thing [getting in a fight with an opponent]. Superstars do not get protection from the referees." Right, Bill, neither do NFL quarterbacks.
* Alumni report: Keith Moreland took part in an alumni game at the University of Texas recently. What's odd about this is, when Moreland was serving time with the Orioles he gave the distinct impression that playing baseball was last on his list of priorities.
* Dumb statistic of the week: Johnny Holliday, on a Maryland basketball broadcast, revealed, "The Terps are 9-1 in games they led at halftime." That's against the MEAC trifecta of Howard, Morgan State, UMES, etc.
* An indication of how inane it was for the NHL to flee ESPN for SportsChannel America a few seasons back can be seen from the fact that games now back on ESPN are barely matching the audiences they had five years ago even through addressable households have increased substantially.
* Organizers are hopeful of gleaning $550 million for TV rights fees for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. NBC paid $400 million for the Barcelona Games and not only lost its shirt but its blazer, too, about $100 million. Good luck.
* Ski buffs, rejoice! There are no fewer than five shows from the slopes tomorrow beginning at 12:20 p.m. (Channel 9) with Channels 4 and 7 and ESPN also getting into the act at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
* Yo, make way for the Pazmanian Devil, Vinny Pazienza. He of the recently-mended broken neck is taking on Brett Lally on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights" March 2. Lally will be a stern test because he's coming off a victory over non-tomato can Tyrone Trice.
* In the TV Guide feature "What I Watch," Isiah Thomas, an avid watcher of soaps, said, "Sure, NBA players watch the soaps, but I don't think they'd admit it. My mother got me hooked. I watched them every day in college. I used to schedule my classes around them."
During the season and on the road, baseball players are huge soaps fans; that's when the Flintstones aren't available, of course.